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Legislature Swamps Governor In Bills


Leo McElroy, non-partisan political consultant


Friday night marked the end of the legislative session in Sacramento and the beginning of a new era for the Legislature.

The dozens of bills passed in the session's waning days, some of them unread or not completely understood by the legislators voting on them, have landed on the Governor's desk.

The pile of legislation included a first attempt at pension reform for state workers and a bill mandating that the city of San Diego put its municipal employees on Social Security. A revision of the California Environmental Quality Act, long awaited by business interests, was not included. Many other bills died for lack of time or interest.

Next year, thanks to California voters, this "system" may begin to disappear. Several new legislators will come from about 20 competitive districts where Democrats are facing off against Democrats, and Republicans are dueling with fellow Republicans in November. These districts have been drawn by an independent commission, not by the party in power and consequently have not been gerrymandered into strange, twisted shapes to assure victory for one party.

Legislative candidates will increasingly have to appeal to all voters. This fact, in turn, may help to form a more moderate legislature. In theory, a less fractious legislature will have an easier time getting something done.

In addition, voters changed the law governing term limits to allow a legislator to serve 12 years in one house, rather than six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate. The idea is that serving more time in one house will lead legislators to focus more on public policy rather than re-election.

One more change: state budgets can now pass with a majority vote, rather than 2/3 of the legislature.

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